Posted On: December 28, 2010

NJ Police Step Up Efforts to Battle Drunk Drivers

Police across the State have stepped up efforts this holiday season to crack down on drunk drivers. Two recent incidents illustrate just how serious the problem can be.

*Amy Locane, a former “Melrose Place” actress and Hopewell, NJ, resident, was indicted recently on charges of killing a Montgomery Township woman and injuring her husband as a result of a motor vehicle accident in which the actress allegedly was driving under the influence. This accident followed an earlier hit-and-run accident in Princeton, NJ, involving the actress. Locane faces a decades-long prison term if convicted. (1)

*A resident of Freehold, NJ, Samuel Perez Ramirez, pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in an accident that resulted in the death of his own father, a passenger who was ejected from the vehicle when it struck another car after failing to stop at a stop sign. Ramirez’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the accident was reportedly three times over the legal limit. (2)

Although these accidents occurred in June and May of this yea, respectively, the number of celebrations and office parties during the holiday season traditionally increases the likelihood of people driving under the influence. During last year’s holiday season, 189 people died in New Jersey as the result of 179 alcohol-related accidents, which represents 32% of the 584 fatalities reported in the State during 2009. National statistics show that 10,839 people were killed in alcohol-related highway accidents last year. (3)

To combat this, police departments throughout the State are participating in “Over the Limit, Under Arrest,” a campaign aimed at reducing DWI accidents through public education and increased patrols and sobriety checkpoints. (3)

Despite stiffer penalties, which include a $1,000 surcharge drivers are required to pay to the State for three consecutive years following their convictions, reports show the number of DWI arrests has not decreased significantly. According to a recent report, 27,838 DWI arrests were made last year and, although it was the fewest number of arrests recorded these past 10 years, it represents only a 3% decline from 2008. In fact, the number of DWI arrests has remained fairly steady throughout the past decade, having peaked just short of 30,500 in 2007. (4)

The “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” efforts will run through January 2, 2011.

(1) http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/12/melrose_place_actress_is_indic.html

(2) http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/12/freehold_man_admits_driving_wh.html

(3) http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/state/new-jersey-police-launch-holiday-season-drunk-driving-crackdown

(4) http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/12/penalties_not_reducing_number.html

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Posted On: December 4, 2010

Consumers to Benefit from Settlement between Used Car Dealer and State

The State does not look lightly on false advertising and other misleading business practices as at least one New Jersey used car dealer learned recently.

Although it did not admit to any wrongdoing, Global Auto, Inc., based in Elizabeth, NJ, agreed to pay a $140,000 settlement to resolve a lawsuit brought against it by the State’s Attorney General and the Division of Consumer Affairs alleging misleading business practices. (1)

The lawsuit, filed a year ago, alleges that Global Auto, Inc., also known as Auto Collection Group, violated the State’s consumer protection regulations and laws. Among those violations were:

• bait and switch advertising, in which vehicle prices were misrepresented in order to draw customers;

• not fulfilling promises to pay off loans on vehicles accepted for trade;

• providing false information to loan companies in order to get financing for customers;

• having customers sign blank papers to facilitate the sale;

• failing to reveal to consumers accurate damage information on the vehicles being purchased; and

• inappropriately combining the paperwork on sales with an out-of-state dealership. (2)

The settlement amount includes $16,537, which will be paid as restitution to seven customers. Of the remaining amount, $86,462 covers civil penalties and $37,000 covers investigative costs and attorneys’ fees. (1) The settlement stipulates that $50,000 of the penalties amount will be suspended for a year. However, that amount will be payable immediately if the company fails to make restitution to its customers within 75 days and/or if the company does not follow certain business practices imposed by the agreement. If all requirements are met, including restitution payments, the $50,000 in penalties will be waived. (3)

Among the business practices Global must adapt are honoring the advertised price of its vehicles; not providing misleading information to lending institutions regarding customer information; paying off all balances on vehicles accepted as trade-ins when agreed upon; carrying out a search of a vehicle’s background through a service such as CARFAX and disclosing that information to the consumer. (1)

Global Auto, Inc. and Global Auto Mall in North Plainfield, NJ, are not associated.

(1) http://www.state.nj.us/lps/ca/press/elizcardeal113010.htm

(2) http://www.legalnewsline.com/news/230037-auto-dealer-setles-with-new-jersey

(3) http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/state/elizabeth-used-car-dealer-agrees-to-pay-former-customers-state-140000-for-improper-business-practices

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